Unscrupulous political affairs

  • PUP 1989 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2008.
  • UDP 1983, 1998 and 2008 – now.

How do you define corruption?

Corruption is operationally defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption and “against the rule” corruption Facilitation payments, where a bribe is paid to receive preferential treatment for something that the bribe receiver is required to do by law, constitute the former. The latter, on the other hand, is a bribe paid to obtain services the bribe receiver is prohibited from providing.

What is “transparency”?

“Transparency” can be defined as a principle that allows those affected by administrative decisions, business transactions or charitable work to know not only the basic facts and figures but also the mechanisms and processes. It is the duty of civil servants, managers and trustees to act visibly, predictably and understandably.

What are the costs of corruption?

The cost of corruption is four-fold: political, economic, social, and environmental. On the political front, corruption constitutes a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. In a democratic system, offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they are misused for private advantage. Though this is harmful in the established democracies, it is even more so in newly emerging ones. Accountable political leadership can not develop in a corrupt climate. Economically, corruption leads to the depletion of national wealth. It is often responsible for the funneling of scarce public resources to uneconomic high-profile projects, such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries, at the expense of less spectacular but fundamental infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and roads, or the supply of power and water to rural areas. Furthermore, it hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition, thereby deterring investment.

The effect of corruption on the social fabric of society is the most damaging of all. It undermines people’s trust in the political system, in its institutions and its leadership. Frustration and general apathy among a disillusioned public result in a weak civil society. That in turn clears the way for despots as well as democratically elected yet unscrupulous leaders to turn national assets into personal wealth. Demanding and paying bribes become the norm. Those unwilling to comply often emigrate, leaving the country drained of its most able and most honest citizens. Environmental degradation is yet another consequence of corrupt systems.

The lack of, or non-enforcement of, environmental regulations and legislation has historically allowed the North to export its polluting industry to the South. At the same time, careless exploitation of natural resources, from timber and minerals to elephants, by both domestic and international agents has led to ravaged natural environments. Environmentally devastating projects are given preference in funding, because they are easy targets for siphoning off public money into private pockets.

Can the costs of corruption be quantified?

The short answer is “no”. Some experts use regression analyses and other empirical methods in order to try to put a dollar figure on the cost of corruption. It is virtually impossible to calculate since payments of bribes are not publicly recorded. No one knows exactly how much money is being “invested” in corrupt officials annually. And bribes do not take only monetary form: favours, services, presents and so on are just as common. At most, one can research the correlation between the level of corruption and, say, democratisation, economic development or environmental degradation. The social costs of corruption are even less quantifiable. No one knows how much the loss of an energetic entrepreneur or an acclaimed scientist costs a country. Moreover, any estimated social costs in dollars would be inadequate to the task of measuring the human tragedy behind resignation, illiteracy, or inadequate.

A general scepticism vis-à-vis any attempt at quantifying the costs of corruption is thus warranted. The following example illustrates the dilemma of pressing the issue into facts and figures:

A power plant is being built somewhere in the world, at a cost of US$ 100 million. It could be argued that – were it not for corruption – the cost could have been as low as US$ 80 million. The financial damage to the public would then be US$ 20 million. In practice, quite often projects are planned simply so that those involved can make huge private profits. Assuming that the power plant was superfluous, the financial damage would have to be assessed at US$ 100 million. Yet no major construction project leaves the environment untouched. The results may be: increased pollution, a lowering of land prices, resettlement of local residents, an increased debt burden for the country, etc. This calculation – probably closest to reality – is immensely complex. On a global scale, it seems almost impossible. But even if one were able to calculate the environmental damage, the increase of the debt burden and other factors, how would one measure the erosion of public confidence and the deterioration of a government’s legitimacy, which are the direct result of corruption?

How does corruption affect people’s lives?

Around the globe, corruption impacts people’s lives in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, corruption costs lives. In countless other cases, it costs their freedom, health, or money. It has dire global consequences, trapping millions in poverty and misery, while breeding social, economic and political unrest. Corruption is both a cause of poverty, and a barrier to overcoming it.

Here are a few examples:
Petrol prices sky-rocketed, life became harder for many families and businesses. Some petrol suppliers, however, were not suffering alongside them.

What kind of environment does corruption need to thrive in?

As indicated above, corruption thrives where temptation coexists with permissiveness. Where institutional checks on power are missing, where decision making remains obscure, where civil society is thin on the ground, where great inequalities in the distribution of wealth condemn people to live in poverty, which is where corrupt practices flourish. It cannot be stressed enough that corruption is alive and well even where political, economic, legal and social institutions are well entrenched..

Are democracy and corruption reconcilable?

In a modern democracy, the power of governing bodies is inherent in the political mandate given by the people. Power is entrusted and it is supposed to be used for the benefit of society at large, and not for the personal benefit of the individual that holds it. Thus corruption – misusing publicly entrusted power for private gain – is inherently contradictory and irreconcilable with democracy. That does not mean, unfortunately, that corruption cannot be found in democratic systems. Temptation remains a challenge anywhere. That is why it is all the more important to put in place control mechanisms and establish systemic hurdles to prevent people from abusing their power

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